Making an effort

I suppose it would be natural to become jaded after so many big storms this winter.  “What, it’s not over a foot of cold-smoke fresh snow? Meh.”

I’ll admit I was a bit on the fence on Thursday, after a warm storm left nearly a foot snow at the higher elevations in South Lake Tahoe, but nothing more than an inch of wet sludgy snow in the driveway.  If I don’t have to shovel, I tend not to go skiing – call it my version of the six-inch rule.

However, Nils convinced me to go out to Heavenly to make a few turns with him.  After all, it had been awhile since we’d resort skied together, what with his travel and illness.  I’m so glad we did.  It was colder and deeper than I expected, and given the lack of people out, I’m guessing many people had similar thoughts of ‘why bother?’.

Worth making the effort

Why bother indeed.

The calm before the (next) storm

While more snow (a lot more, actually) is supposed to hit Tahoe this weekend, today’s cold temperatures and glorious sunshine tempted us to take an early lunch break and hit our favorite backcountry quickie.  Steep north facing trees are quite fun, and since Nils is a far better photographer than I am, he captured the outing nicely.

Tree skiing is fun!

Timing is everything

Amazing what a cell phone can capture

Mother Nature’s timing has been spot-on this season.  Yesterday’s storm and subsequent bluebird day today happened after  I had finished various larger projects, including a social media workshop I presented at in Carson Valley yesterday, as well as a social media class I just finished teaching at the local community college.

While last night’s drive back from the Carson Valley was a bit spicy, I figured that it was a necessary sacrifice to ski powder.  Ski resorts around Lake Tahoe were crowing about the snowfall this morning, so I knew I had to get out for a few hours in the name of ‘product testing’.  After a wet start yesterday, I was stoked to find very fluffy, very cold powder snow at Heavenly.   Coverage for this time of year is remarkable, and I’m still a bit shocked that I was able to ski multiple runs down Gunbarrel without hitting any major rocks.  I even skied some other areas that I typically don’t attempt until well later in the season, and the light, dry powder snow hid no rocks or other ski-damaging obstacles.  Quelle chance!

Telemarking in powder = fun

It’s unusual for me to bring my camera and actually try to take photos of people skiing, as I’m one that doesn’t have the patience to faff around, especially when there’s powder snow to ski.  However, in an effort to actually provide images both for this blog and for some other projects, I decided to try to remember to take photos.  Given my lack of skill, and the fact that much of the best snow was in the shaded trees, most pictures aren’t worth posting here.  But it’s a start, however small.

There’s a much bigger storm forecast to arrive for the weekend, and I’ve decided that if it actually delivers what forecasters are saying, I’ll be claiming more than a few vacation days next week.

Anyone wanna join me?

Awesome April Fool’s

I love it when Mother Nature plays an April Fool’s in my favor.  Winter’s returned, with up to 29 inches of new snow at the resorts today (and unsettled weather forecast through the weekend – WOOT!).

Due to work commitments I was only able to ski for a few hours in the morning, which meant heading to the resort 10 minutes from my house.  Heavenly was reporting 15-18 inches, but based on the winds yesterday I knew that depth would likely be in isolated pockets.  It was, but when I hit said pockets, it was very good.  Face shot good. Fat ski good.

As the saying goes about friends on a powder day (there are none), there’s a similar corollary about photos.

Looking forward to seeing if this April Fool’s thing extends into next week.   At the very least, it should make for great conditions this weekend.

Winter, she returns

Winter appears to have returned to Lake Tahoe, with 3-5 inches of new snow locally. Due to some cosmic screwup, Reno and the Carson Valley got more snow than the Tahoe area did – upwards of a foot.  So while folks down there were digging out, we headed to Luther Pass to look for some wind-deposited winter snow.

Despite it being a holiday week here, with everyone and their mother’s uncle on the roads, we encountered very few fellow backcountry skiers today – just a group from the local community college taking an avalanche certification class.  And even after a week of springlike weather, the snow today bore none of the crusty and firm characteristics I’d expected.  Just boot to shin deep fluff.

No photos were taken today (bad light, too cold, and having WAAAY too much fun to stop), but we did get home to find that the dog, apparently grumpy that we left her and her aging hips behind, had decided to clean all the dishes in the sink for us, leaving detritus all over the kitchen.  While admittedly post-haste, we thought the muzzle might serve as a reminder why impromptu kitchen cleanup isn’t such a good idea.

Powder birthday

So the snow did arrive; up to 8 feet fell on the Tahoe region during the week of my birthday. It was a long overdue powder celebration (and then some), for me along with everyone else at Lake Tahoe.

I made the most of it with Nils, skiing Sierra-at-Tahoe on the high wind days when other resorts were shut down, then hitting Heavenly after it had been virtually closed for two days.  With the new Voile Drifters (121 mm underfoot,
baby!) I felt invincible.  There is no speed limit on those skis.  Better than the unlimited speed however were the face shots, of which these skis gave me plenty.

With the resorts slayed by the hordes of powder hungry skiers by Friday, we knew it was time for some backcountry exploration on the weekend.   Cold temps and a low snow levels meant that we could consider a few lower trailheads, one of which we’d never attempted before.    With some Ttips friends as guides, we found some of the most epic backcountry conditions I have ever encountered in the Lake Tahoe basin.  Full stop.   Over 4000 feet of knee + deep snow.

Want proof?  Well, how about these? (all photos courtesy of Sierra Fred)




Not stopping

So worth missing the Eddie Izzard concert in Oakland that night!

Winter Break

We spent last week feting the holidays in Bend, where our impeccable timing meant we found fresh powder on Tuesday, and saw the sun and powder on the summit of Mt. Bachelor on Thursday.  While I’ve skied here numerous times, it has always been during storms, so I’ve never seen the top of the mountain, let alone skied it.

The top was fun, albeit a mix of hardpack glare ice where winds had blown the snow off and kneedeep powder where said snow had collected.  There were a few steeper pitches, but overall it was pretty gentle terrain – with great views of the Sisters.  I found it amusing that there was an employee at the bottom of the Summit chair warning people that there was no groomed runs and it was for experts only.  I realize there’s a punter factor at every resort, especially at this time of year, but this seemed excessively cautious.

But that might be because I’m a proponent of the Darwin school of thought, letting only the smartest survive.

Why Tahoe rocks

Because we measure storms in feet, not inches. This latest storm dumped another 5 feet in the mountains, and it’s now GAME ON for the ski resorts.  This latest storm came in a bit wetter than the last one, building a base and covering a lot of the rocks and other obstacles. Note that there are still a few lurking about, as we found on Heavenly’s Face run yesterday, so you still need to be aware of things under the surface.

It’s been a few years since we’ve seen this much snow this early in the season, and my legs are definitely not yet in shape.  After 3 consecutive days of skiing powder, I’m walking a bit stiffly.

But it is SO worth it!

Got Snow?

Bare dirt 2 days ago

Whether it’s truly El Nino or just snow dances paying off in spades, Lake Tahoe got hit hard by a snowstorm yesterday and today.  It’s a much needed boost, both in terms of the snow pack and general attitude, for it’s a lot easier to get excited about winter and ski season when things are actually covered in snow.

Despite all the giddiness about powder snow, I didn’t ski at the resorts today.  Yes, there is 3 feet of new snow at the higher elevations, but there was a lot of bare dirt (and rocks) at the ski resorts before this storm, so I’d rather wait until there’s a better payoff.  And lower risk of hitting a rock and hurting my already decrepit self.

Instead, the dog and I explored our meadow, which just a few days ago was bare dirt in many places.  I spent an hour breaking trail in light and pristine shin deep snow, then enjoyed the fruits of my labors and skied back on said track.

Heck, I was so blissed out by the new snow that I didn’t even say anything rude to the lazy-ass chick who was walking in my ski track.  Talk about her lucky day.

Hungry for Winter

October typically marks the beginning of the ski film season, when filmmakers of all winter persuasions (telemark, alpine, snowboard) take their shows on the road, fueling the winter lust of die-hard skiers like me.  This weekend brought a double whammy of telemark films, including the newest film from the Powderwhores, a Utah based collection of rippin’ backcountry telemark skiers.

While non-skiers will probably never fully understand the addiction that is powder skiing, this trailer captures a bit of the energy and joy that I get when dancing through untracked snow.  I’m just hoping Mother Nature pulls through with this El Nino crap, as I’m jonesing for some deep snow after this movie.
For those in South Lake Tahoe on Monday, another tele film, Freeheel Life, will be playing at LTCC at 8pm.